About Meth AbuseMeth is often created in labs using over-the-counter cold medications containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Meth typically also includes several toxic chemicals such as fertilizer, red phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia or drain cleaner. Users frequently suffer from a myriad of adverse mental, emotional, and physical meth effects, including the following:
- Permanent brain damage
- Heart disease
- Memory problems
- Impaired thinking
- Violence and rage
Immediate Meth EffectsSmoking or injecting meth initiates an immediate, highly pleasurable rush. Snorting the drug leads to feelings of euphoria within 3-5 minutes, but oral use of meth takes effect in 15-20 minutes. Although the rush doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes, other effects, including an exaggerated sense of confidence and an increased sex drive, can last up to 12 hours. Abusers may also encounter less pleasant meth effects such as stomach cramps, constipation, eye twitching, and severe mood swings.
Long-Term Meth Effects
“Meth Mouth”Significant dental problems, including stained, rotting and broken teeth, are common long-term meth effects. This condition, known as “meth mouth,” is the result of decreased saliva production, poor hygiene, poor diet and compulsive teeth clenching and grinding.
“Crank Bugs”Meth users can also experience the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin. As a result, the itching and picking at the skin caused by these imaginary bugs produces inflamed open sores.
Dramatic Weight LossBecause meth use suppresses appetite, then can lead to severe weight loss, sometimes to the point of malnutrition that causes users to appear sick, haggard, and older than they are. It’s not uncommon for meth users to become isolated, remaining at home so that friends and family won’t see the radical changes in their appearance.
CravingsBecause meth is so potent, use of the drug brings on chemical changes, causing the brain to require more of the drug to feel normal (this is known as tolerance, see below). Even ruminating about the pleasant feelings and emotions induced by meth use can release dopamine and instigate powerful cravings. Many former users experience cravings for months after drug use has stopped.
ToleranceAccording to DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria, tolerance is characterized by a need for increasing amounts of a drug to feel the desired effect, or a gradually diminished effect that results from consistent use of the same amount. Also, the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that some long-term meth users may lose the ability to feel pleasure without using meth, which results in increased drug use and higher tolerance.
DependenceThe American Psychiatric Association describes dependence as “a pattern of substance abuse that leads to significant impairment or distress.” Chemical dependence occurs along with prolonged drug use that results in the body growing accustomed to the drug’s presence and becoming less able to function properly without it. The time it takes to develop a meth dependency can vary, although frequent meth abusers and intravenous drug users become dependent much sooner. Most users exhibit symptoms of dependence within 4-6 weeks, and some report developing a powerful dependence after just a single use.
WithdrawalAs dependence increases and the body continues to require more meth, users encounter severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. The earliest symptoms often include strong cravings and feelings of hopelessness, apathy, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Withdrawal symptoms also include:
- Impaired memory and concentration
- Mood swings
- Aches and pains
- Sleeping problems
- Increased appetite
- Diminished sex drive
- Lack of energy
- Distorted thinking and paranoia